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Karim Zeroual is one of the favourites to dance his way to victory on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing with his partner Amy Dowden. The 25-yearold actor and children’s TV presenter has been riding high on the leaderboar­d after wowing the judges with his sensationa­l routines, including a phenomenal tango, which earned him and his partner a scoreboard-topping 38 points.

While he’s already a hit with the younger Strictly fans as a result of his appearance­s on CBBC, he also has a huge following on social media, where people are rooting for him to be crowned the show’s champion.

Here the star shares his hopes of winning the show, battling racism and his dreams to make it in Hollywood…

You impressed the judges with your tango, did you expect to do so well?

It was so overwhelmi­ng. You never know what’s going to happen on the dancefloor. I honestly forgot the routine literally just seconds before. I didn’t think about scoring highly. We got through it but then to get the positive feedback that we received was amazing.

The judges can be harsh, how do you find them?

I love the judges. They’re so honest and I want their criticism. But after what happened to Dev [Griffin], it has made us all realise that you can’t take anything for granted. I’m feeling the pressure but I’m putting my heart and soul into it and I want to do the best I can do.

You seem very close to Amy Dowden – is there any danger of the Strictly curse striking [Amy is engaged to Ben Jones]?

Amy and I are really good mates and we tease each other and it goes a bit far. But nothing like that! She nags me but she also has to rein me in.

What’s been the secret behind your captivatin­g performanc­es so far?

Ha! It’s my mum’s chicken curry. She’s been feeding me up. It’s good for me but bad for Amy because I have bad curry breath!

We’ve seen you on Strictly with your nephews, what would a win mean for them? I love being an uncle. My nephews are incredible. That’s why my tango went so well because I had their voices in my head. I was quite emotional before I went on and I thought, you know what, I am going to do it for my nephews, and as soon as

I went into character, I felt that I was ready to perform.

You come from a rough background but how determined has it made you to be a good role model?

I grew up in west London. There was a lot of knife crime and it was a rough area. Growing up I never thought I could be an actor or presenter, but for my nephews to see their uncle doing it gives them a little bit of hope.

Were you bullied growing up?

I’m a small boy, and being mixed race too was tough. But my biggest advice to kids is to be yourself. I’ve been through bad things but it’s made me stronger and made me who I am. Instead of using it to hit a selfdestru­ct button, I have used it to fight. I have crafted my skill of what I do as a presenter on TV and I’ve used it for success and positivity more than dwelling and negativity.

You presented a Community And Charity award at the National Lottery Awards, what did that mean to you?

Amy and I met Jacqueline Williamson, who set up Kinship Care in Northern Ireland in 2010 to help care for over 309 young people, whose parents can no longer look after them. They help and provide support for other family members who are in a position of a primary carer. I know how hard that can be.

Your CBBC travel show A Week

To Beat The World involved you getting a Brazilian wax – that must have been painful…

Yes, it was! I got waxed in Brazil and I had to wear Speedos. I did so many mad things. I had to eat chicken heads and feet and fish eyes and I had to play hockey with the Mayan people in Guatemala who set the hockey ball on fire. Honestly, it was the first time on TV that I was speechless. I was so scared. Not as scared as performing on Strictly, though! In fact now the fireball seems quite reasonable.

With your love of travel, will you end up in Hollywood?

Ever since I went to Sylvia Young Theatre School, I knew that I wanted to be an actor. The presenting came about five years ago. When I was young, I wanted to be a movie star and then you think, I need to make a living out of this. You never know, I could be in Hollywood one day… Yeah, I could be the next Dustin Hoffman!

‘i got waxed in brazil and had to wear speedos’

 ??  ?? Above: CBBC presenter Karim wowed the Strictly judges with his tango with Amy Dowden (top)
Above: CBBC presenter Karim wowed the Strictly judges with his tango with Amy Dowden (top)
 ??  ?? Karim says he has a great relationsh­ip with dance partner Amy Dowden
Karim says he has a great relationsh­ip with dance partner Amy Dowden

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